Make no little plans

June 29, 2005 at 1:07 pm

Rajesh Jain is a person I admire. Not because he made Rs. 500 crore at the height of dotcom craze! But because he practices the same values that I always thought were and should form the core of my value system. It helps me get more conviction that I can achieve my vision by following this value system.

Given below is one among a series of letters that Rajesh is writing to his new-born son Abhishek. Here he talks about the Power of passion.

From E M E R G I C . o r g: Rajesh Jain:

“Dear Abhishek,

Understand the Power of Passion

There are two attributes that I have found which can make a big difference – passion and discipline. Passion is about the energy that we bring to what we are doing. Discipline is the process we follow to getting things done. Let’s talk a little about both of these.

Think of passion as infectious enthusiasm. It is about the force that we bring in the work we do – and how we can positively impact those around us. I learnt the power of this during my first year at IIT. I was contesting for the hostel elections – standing for the post of Literary Secretary. My opponent was one of the most well-liked seniors. No one gave me a chance to win – I was after all a “freshie.” But having made the decision to contest, I was determined not to end up with the same result as when I had stood for School Captain a few years ago. (I had then lost by a narrow margin – after I forgot my speech.)

So, this time around, I decided to campaign hard. I was the underdog, so big deal. I had little to lose. I met with almost every single hostelite, explaining my plans for what I’d do if I were elected. I only had my passion working for me. It was a big change for me. I was until that point of me an introvert – content to live in my own small world. But having decided to fight, I knew that unless I changed, I stood no chance. It was one evening that one of my seniors in the hostel told me – “You know, Rajesh, what we really like about you is your infectious enthusiasm.” That is a statement I have not forgotten to this day.

As it turns out, I did win the elections – by a couple votes. That was the only election I had to fight in IIT – as I went on to become General Secretary (Cultural), one of the highest posts in the student government. When I look back, it was that election which turned the tide for me. It changed me – for the better. It also showed me the power of passion.

It was the same passion that I had going for me when I started IndiaWorld in 1994 and had to go out and source content from various publishers. I had to make them see a world built around the Internet that did not exist. I had to make them believe me. That is where Passion comes in. It is one of the greatest assets we can possess – especially when we are trying to persuade others.

Passion comes from an inner belief – you have to let your inner feelings reflect on the outside, and like a virus, infect others around you. Passion is one of the key dimensions of leadership – and you will have to demonstrate plenty of it as you “make no little plans.”

All of us have passion. We don’t discover it at the right time, that’s all. Once we bring passion into our system we will find that we achieve greater satisfaction in whatever we do irrespective of the result.

One of my plans for myself, is to go on my own. I have a person in whom I can trust and rely on! We are sure we shall build a successful enterprise once we get together. That’s because we are confident of our fundamental values. While being confident, we are somewhere unable to convince ourselves that we will be able to sell this idea of leaving a lucrative job with a regular monthly paycheck and jump into something which might leave us with nothing at all to our well-wishers and family members.

But we have the passion and the vision to change India into a developed country. We are willing to put in all our efforts to make this happen. We are ready to be the change. The question is when. I will not lie saying that I am brimming with ideas to make this happen. I am trying to think. Think of better ways of achieving my two-fold objective: Better India and Our survival. If you have ideas I am open to discussion. I have to answer the question of “when” myself and to my future business partner. He will have a different idea. We need to converge on a single idea and then, that’s it. Be the change!

The idea has to be powerful enough to change the world. Otherwise, what’s the use? I can’t start a kirana store and expect the world to change! We need to work on a powerful concept friend! Let’s put our minds together. We live apart, but that shouldn’t be a reason not to think and discuss. We should be ready to give our full commitment at the drawing board stage. The idea gains strength and belief as we work on it more and more. We need to get together friend. Let’s build a better India. It’s in our hands. Let’s do it.

Things you cannot lose

June 28, 2005 at 6:48 pm

From [Candy In Your Closet]

When you worry too much about losing something, you’ve already lost it. For your worry prevents you from receiving any value out of whatever you’re so worried about losing.

Things do change, and what is here today may well be gone tomorrow. You can worry and fret over that reality, or you can joyfully and lovingly make the most of all you have right now.

The joy that you fully experience, you will not lose. The love that you live and give, cannot be taken from your heart by any outside circumstance.

If you invest yourself too heavily in the fleeting, superficial things in life, you’ll be setting yourself up for a shattering disappointment when those things are no longer with you. Instead, learn to treasure those real, substantial, meaningful things that time and events cannot erase.

Get in the habit of fully living each day with meaning and purpose.
You’ll find yourself worrying less about what you have to lose, and focusing more on what you have to use.

Express gratitude for all you have by making the very most of it.
And you’ll always have plenty to be thankful for.

Ads by God

June 28, 2005 at 2:03 pm











My workplace

June 28, 2005 at 10:42 am

Rajesh Jain quotes an article from News.com regarding the Indian Tech Renaissance. One of the sections talks wholly about Novatium. Novatium is where I work.

Once fairly anonymous organizations hired to run support desks and develop server applications for large multinational corporations, Indian companies are raising their profile as brand name suppliers in hardware design, software development, consulting services and virtually anything else in technology. Infused with new blood from a young tech-savvy work force, the new movement is a major advance toward economic independence that carries broad ramifications for a country whose past includes colonial rule, experiments in socialism and devastating poverty.

There are a few quotes by me in the report. Michael Kanellos had met with me about a month ago, thanks to an introduction by VIA’s Ravi Pradhan.

Not surprisingly, optimism is running high as younger generations come of age. The national exuberance has inspired many entrepreneurs, including Rajesh Jain, who sold an Indian-based Web portal, IndiaWorld, for around $100 million in 2000 and who is now incubating companies that he expects will bring computing to the masses in his country.

“For the first time,” he said, “there is confidence that tomorrow will be better than today.”

2005: Entrepreneur Rajesh Jain begins to promote thin clients costing $100 to $150 as computers for the mass population. “It’s not that we need just cheaper solutions. We need the newest technology, but at fundamentally lower price points,” Jain has said.

One of the critical ingredients for the $100 computer is probably in your garage.

In about three months, a little-known company called Novatium plans to offer a stripped-down home computer for about $70 or $75. That is about half the price of the standard “thin clients” of this kind now sold in India, made possible in part by some novel engineering choices. Adding a monitor doubles the price to $150, but the company will offer used displays to keep the cost down.

“If you want to reach the $100 to $120 price point, you need to use old monitors,” said Novatium founder and board member Rajesh Jain, a local entrepreneur who sold the IndiaWorld portal for $115 million in cash in 2000 and has started a host of companies since. “Monitors have a lifetime of seven to eight years.”

It is this kind of entrepreneurial thinking that has made Jain the latest visionary to seek out today’s Holy Grail of home computing: a desktop that will start to bring the Internet to the more than 5 billion people around the world who aren’t on it yet.

“Just because we are an emerging market doesn’t mean we want an inferior product,” said Jain of Novatium. The engineering behind his company’s base model illustrates his point.

Instead of a microprocessor, it will contain a digital signal processor that compresses and decompresses music and video files. In addition to lowering costs, the technology is designed to provide access to the full range of the Internet without bogging down the machine’s operations. (Novatium would not disclose which chip brand it would use, but one of its investors is also the chairman of digital signal processor designer Analog Devices.)

Using Linux applications and software from Jain’s Netcore Solutions, these machines will be tweaked so that multiple people can use them. This would reduce the cost of memory in the server that does the bulk of the computing work for the Novatium thin clients on its network.

Jain will also try to establish “operator grids,” local businesses that run the servers while acting as an Internet service provider. Eventually, instead of buying their machines, he said customers could have the option of paying a grid operator $15 to $20 a month for all hardware, software and storage needs.

While acknowledging the risks inherent in any start-up venture, Jain speaks eagerly of what he calls the phenomenon of the black swan–a rare, but not impossible, event.

“Google was a black swan,” he said. “No one expects the next Microsoft or Intel or Cisco to come out of India, but I believe it is entirely possible.”

Overall, the story is a big positive for India and reflects its coming of age. Now, if we can only get more Indian entrepreneurs to start thinking about building out tomorrow’s world, the renaissance will lead to domination. What is needed is a mix of entrepreneurial passion, cutting-edge innovation, and big thinking. We also need to leverage our domestic market — solving the needs of the consumers and SMEs in India can provide Indian companies the right platform to extend the solutions to other emerging markets also. And perhaps, ensure innovation blowback (as John Hagel says) to the developed markets.

Movie Review – Parineeta

June 23, 2005 at 3:07 pm

Movies

Parineeta
(Director: Pradeep Sarkar, Producer: Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Written by: Pradeep Sarkar and Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Music Director: Shantanu Moitra, Cinematographer: N. Nataraja Subramanian, Creative producers: Vir Chopra and Rajkumar Hirani)

My Rating: 7.5/10

The producers of Munnabhai M.B.B.S & a first time director in the form of ad-director Pradeep Sarkar ( Former associate director – Mission Kashmir) adapt an original classic novel by SaratChandra Chattopadhyaya to bring to us a 70mm movie “Parineeta”.

The story is of a Lolita (debutante but familiar face – Vidya Balan), orphaned early in her life staying with her mama. She is a childhood friend & neighbour of the son-of-a-filthy rich-father and ek lauta waaris of crores of jaaydad: Sekhar (Saif Ali Khan). Sekhar is a musician by choice but businessman by (his father’s) force.

Lolita and Sekhar realise their love for each other when Girish (Sanjay Dutt), a businessman relative of Lolita, enters from London into the small and cosy ecosystem that Lolita and Sekhar had created for themselves. Girish saves Lolita’s mama from certain financial problems created by Sekhar’s wealthy father. Thus, Lolita feels indebted to Girish, and her mama decides to get them both married to display gratitude.

In the meantime, Sekhar’s father gets a businessman Tathya’s daughter (Dia ‘plastic’ Mirza) as a would-be-bride for Sekhar. Does Sekhar agree to the match? How does the story end? Watch the movie to find out.

Vidya Balan comes across as a seasoned performer. She’s at ease in front of the camera. She conveys expression through her eyes. A trademark of a very high calibre of actors. The first scene where she is introduced with the camera focussing only on her eyes through the window slit does justice to this talent of hers. Her body language is pleasant. She can effortlessly demarcate the light scenes from the heavy ones with her smile. I am still trying to recover from that charming smile! ;-)

Saif Ali Khan, thankfully and rightfully cast in a serious role, makes full use of the opportunity. He comes up with a royal performance. Showing affluence comes naturally to him. The scene where he plays piano imagining Lolita making love to Girish and ends in an orgasmic shudder of the glass of water breaking, is a class apart from the movie itself! I would say, paisa vasool for that scene alone! Hats off to Saif Ali Khan for pulling it off without overdoing it! I shall talk about the conception of that scene when we get there!

Sanjay Dutt plays his age. A well-groomed businessman who does a L N Mittal kind of acquisition of steel plants. Looks good in his suits and dresses. Has lost a bit of his sturdy physique, but suits the role to the tee. He displays maturity in the character. He does well. His introduction scene where he is mistaken for an electrician by Lolita is excellent.

Saif’s parents have an important role to play in the movie and they do it very well. Especially Saif’s father does very well to add that business-like touch to the role while bordering on the villanous. Dia Mirza has a few more scenes than Raima Sen. Dia looks beautiful but plastic. Raima Sen does well as the chirpy energetic girl-next-door. And Saif’s friend and music arranger does a good cameo. The scene where he requests the beggar for a 25 paise loan is pulled off well though it’s cliched!

Cinematographer N. Nataraja Subramanian does a professional job of capturing the Kolkata of the 1960’s perfectly recreated by the trio of Keshto Mondal, Tanushree Sarkar and Pradeep Sarkar (himself!). References to Elvis Presley, Saridon, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk of the 1960’s seem to make the movie very authentic. There is a yellowish tinge throughout the movie to give it a vintage touch. Editing could have been better.

Music was the highlight of the movie for me. Shantanu Moitra comes across as a melodious composer! The song “Piyu Bole” is just too romantic. Though the introduction (during the titles) song is a bit jarring on the ears, overall the quality of music belongs to the best we have heard this year so far. Background music adds to the feel of the movie. But there are a few scenes which have been given a very sudden jump in the volume levels which makes the audience jerk all of a sudden. Few of my friends, who had come along with me who didn’t quite understand hindi fully, were woken up by these sounds! ;-)

Vidhu Vinod Chopra has left no stone unturned in making this movie the best he could. Amitabh Bachchan’s voice at the beginning of the movie and the end adds a certain class to the overall happenings. The painting through which the movie starts is another attempt at giving a ‘classy’ feel to the movie.

Overall, a classy movie. Not to be missed by the lovers of sensitive cinema. I have taken away 2.5 points because I felt the ending was a bit too dramatic. No complaints though. And there are a few sequences where the actors went overboard!

Vidhu vinod Chopra a celebrated movie maker himself has developed a team which churns out excellent movies. Till today we had heard of only two schools of film-making that were dominating Bollywood. The Yasho Chopra and the Ram Gopal Varma schools. Please mark the arrival of the third, in chronology alone not on quality, The Vidhu Vinod Chopra School. They are ready to follow ‘Parineeta’ up with a string of movies ‘Munnabhai meets the Mahatma’ (Munnabhai MBBS – II) and ‘Yagna’ with the same starcast. And in ‘Yagna’ you will see Amitabh Bachchan in flesh and blood not only hear him! Get ready, fasten your seat belts for a journey with the Vidhu Vinod Chopra School!

Book Reviews – The Da Vinci Code, Five point someone, Wise and otherwise & A piece of cake

June 23, 2005 at 3:01 pm

Books

The Da Vinci Code (Author: Dan Brown, Previous books: Angels and Demons, Deception Point etc.)
My Rating: 9/10

Dan Brown crafts a thriller which is gripping to say the least. Robert Langdon, a Historian and a symbols-researcher, becomes the main-accused of a chain of murders of 4 prominent French citizens. The route Langdon adopts to escape the Police and at the same time prove his innocence is what forms the basic strand of the book. Takes us through many interpretations of Leonardo Da Vinci’s paintings. The most startling of them being the presence of a lady in “The Last Supper”. The book also throws some light on why “Monalisa” is smiling. The book sounds very “anti-Christian”. How would you react if you were told that Lord Jesus was actually not God, but a mortal who was happily married?

I have already included lot of spoilers in the above paragraph. Let me not spoil the fun any further. Buy the book and read it! I saw a hardbound edition (A collector’s edition kind of) of the same book with photographs of all the places mentioned in the story. It gives you a super feel while reading the book. If you can afford, Rs. 900/- for the book, then go ahead! I will buy it sometime in the future, not now! The normal paperback book costs Rs. 350/- if I remember right. It’s worth every penny.

If you are planing to read the book skip the paragraph below
I have taken one point (in my rating) away because I feel the ending was a letdown. Not that I expected Dan Brown to reveal all the secrets that people have spent years researching to lay their hands on. But atleast expected a decent ending that kept up with the substance of the remaining part of the story.

Five Point someone (Author: Chetan Bhagat, Previous books: None, This is his first book)
My Rating: 8/10
Chetan Bhagat is an IIT-IIM graduate. Five point someone refers to his life at the IIT or so we are made to believe. He claims its a work of fiction, but then also mentions that he has written this book based on his friends. Well, whether it’s fact or fiction or ‘fact’ion, one thing is sure, the book is a pucca timepass!

Humour seems to come naturally to the author. Writing style is good. The flow of the chapters is so good that I couldn’t put the book down once I started. For Rs. 95/- it’s a steal! Lay your hands on it, and you won’t take your eyes off the book till you are done with reading it completely.

Wise and Otherwise (Author: Sudha Murthy, Previous books: Dollar Bahu, Mahashwetha)
Rating: Cannot rate, as I have not yet read the book fully.
This is a collection of short stories written by Sudha Murthy. From her vast experience of having visited 1000 villages all over the country and doing lots of philanthropic work, she puts down her experience in the form of short stories.

Lessons on humility, righteousness, honesty, etc: the virtues that we thought were lost in the today’s world still exist in the rural confines of our country. That’s what she tries to convey in the first few stories that I read. Liked her style of writing. Simple and straightforward. Can be used as a moral science text book in schools . Her description of the Indian way of life doesn’t match RK Narayan’s but then I musn’t be comparing apples with oranges! ;-)

A piece of cake (Author: Swati Kaushal, Previous books: None, this is her first book)
Rating: 6/10
Have read 200+ pages as of now. Nothing great about the book. Written well but syle is loud and garish at times. It talks about how a 29-year old female, who is doing well in the corporate world, tries to get herself married. So far it’s been about it. Don’t know if the course is steered away at a later point!

Free your dreams – Part II

June 20, 2005 at 3:06 pm

An excerpt from a reply [Courtesy: Mr. Adinarayanan. V, Coimbatore] I recieved to my post on the blog:

“Dreams are an integral part to a creative and successful life. By dreams, i mean day-dreaming, as children we dream, but as we grow we forget how it is to dream. We will of course indulge in dreams but sadly they are no longer the liberating dreams of our childhood years. We get bogged down managing within the constraints of our self-imposed day-to-day living.

Yet I dont mean to say that we should indulge in childish dreams. When we have walked this earth for a number of years and become mature, yet we retain a childlike innocent quality about ourselves. Without contracting the bitterness that you find in the world of today. That’s when life becomes a blessing and you just dont dream but start living your dream. Dreaming more dreams. Beautiful dreams!”

The contradiction seems to set in when we talk about maturity and dreams in the same sentence. Everybody has a dream. Dream of the kind of person we want to be. Dream of the society we want to live in. Dream of the sort of life we want to live. Are all these dreams a potrayal of the future that we are going to see? Or are they just some vague thoughts that you remember because they made you feel so damn good while you were thinking of them? If dreams are not achieved, are you sad that you weren’t able to live your dreams?

If we measured success of our lives by the dreams we saw, then the probability of branding ourselves as a failure increases. This is true if we are confident about our potential. There are a few people who are so self-critical (that’s their way of living, so be it!) that they are of the opinion “Dream is a crime”. They first want to assure themselves they can handle the day-to-day things before going in for those “dreams”!

Dreams, if seen in the true spirit of a dream, offer only a direction to life. Seldom do they assure a destination. By trying to follow our dreams, we are stretching ourselves beyond those boundaries that we never thought was possible. This helps in enhancing the quality of day-to-day life. This is the only place I want to connect dreams with day-to-day life. Lot of replies I recieved to my previous post launched into explanations of how they felt dreams made them sadder because they never achieved them. Trying to achieve your dreams is as fulfilling as the final destination. You meet so many wonderful people and get in and out of so many situations that make you a better person. So, instead of concentrating on whether you achieve your destination or not, make the most of the search to get there. As A R Rahman, the Legendary Indian Musician said, “The search is more important than the destination”.

Today, I am working in a company called Novatium. It’s a high-technology start-up. 100+ people. It’s part of an ambitious vision of a person named Mr. Rajesh Jain, ex-IndiaWorld and MD, Netcore Solutions. I am proud to be a part of this company, not because it pays me obscene amounts as salary and has a gym and a superb canteen and all that. (rather, none of this is true). But because of two reasons:

  1. Wonderful people. I believe we can achieve our vision with such people around.
  2. It is my dream to make India a better place to live in. Novatium’s vision gels completely with mine.

I am certain we can achieve our vision (shall we call it a dream for sake of easier conversation?). But let me tell you one thing, whether or not we achieve our vision, we are all very happy to be working for Novatium. It’s not only an experience of a start-up, it’s an experience of setting up a corporate atmosphere and interacting with great people like Rajesh Jain.

I have grown as a person and as a professional since joining Novatium. The growth has been immense and surely better than what any other company could have offered. I am still searching for the best way to achieve our vision. The relationships that I have built here will last lifelong.

Our Vision is to take technology to the emerging markets. Whether we succeed or not through Novatium, we are confident of making it one day. The coming generations will live a superior quality of life. If Novatium doesn’t succeed then some other idea should. That idea must be a dream again! If not of Rajesh Jain, then maybe of Mr. X. India will be a developed country within the next 25 years!

Finally, we are satisfied we did what we wanted to do. Followed our dream. Rewarded suitably by God either way. I have seen this saying at my school as the thought for the day often, “God helps those who help themselves”. I can’t but appreciate the person who coined this proverb! Looking at it from the Free your dreams and follow it lens I can tell you how true that is! And to all the people who become sad because they dreamt, did and still are nowhere near realising their dreams, lets remember the quote from Bhagwad Gita: “You shall treat victory and defeat, pleasure and pain, loss and gain similarly. Do your duty without having any desire for its reward. No sin can come to you. Do your work with the evenness of mind”.

Free your dreams

June 16, 2005 at 3:40 pm

Blogging enables us to put our thoughts into words for the World to see. I was wondering if our thoughts are born out of a process free of unnecessary constraints. I recognize the fact that we need certain constraints in our thinking or else distance from insanity would decrease.

I was discussing my favourite topic of how to choose a spouse with a good friend of mine. Upto the point I broached the particular topic she was explaining in great detail how things were moving and what she felt with each horoscope and photo being sent. I felt like I had hit a dead-end when I asked, “What kind of a life partner are you looking at?”.

“Adi, I haven’t thought about it”

“What? You are going to get married in a few days from now and you have not even thought of what kind of a life partner you want is it?”

“No Adi, it’s not like that…” Silence.

I am waiting for the remaining part of the response. There’s nothing. It’s just tapered off into nothing.

So I begin my quest again not knowing whether I was making her comfortable or not. My purpose was to find out if she had an idea and was not willing to share with me or was it that she had no idea at all. Very soon, I was to find out that she had no idea at all!

“What happened? Did I ask something wrong? You don’t want to tell me is it?”

“No Adi, I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it”

“Come on! You have completed your engg and are now working for the past one year. You must have seen many guys who must have inspired the thought ‘He-could-be-my-lifepartner’, haven’t you? Hasn’t this occured to you?”

“Adi, what you are saying is right. But when I tell this to my parents, they ask me, “Are you Queen Cleopatra for guys to stand in queue for you?”

Finally, there was atleast a recognition that she underwent what all human beings do. An intuitive way of living life. And according to something I read somewhere, women have better intuition. But this intuition was being killed by people around her.

“That’s okay. What you get may finally not be what you wanted. But you still have the freedom to dream Geeta*. Let your mind free and dream of what you want. When you are dreaming don’t think about whether you will get it or not. That’s not how you dream. For example, I want a girl who looks like Madhuri Dixit, has Rekha’s sensuality, but Nayantara’s homeliness, speaks like Barkha Dutt, exudes the confidence of Kiran Bedi, treats my children like Mother Teresa, cooks like my mom, etc etc. But will I get such a girl? With due regards to my future lifepartner, I don’t know is my answer. But I have a dream. More importantly I made use of my freedom to dream, that’s all!”

(*Name has been changed to protect her identity)

After that, Geeta started explaining what kind of a lifepartner she was looking at. And how nice it would be to have a life with him. She had begun on a journey towards an uncertain destination for the first time in her 21 years of life. She was dreaming.

All of us have the fundamental freedom to dream. If you don’t make use of that freedom you would be living a very one-dimensional life. Taking each day as it comes and not really expecting anything at all out of life. I meet tons of such people with this kind of a predisposition towards life. And they are not even aware they are living life that way. A very sad way, indeed! I cannot go on preaching my theories to everybody, Can I?

But I have been trying to fathom the reason as to why individuals turn out to be this way? Why are their wings of freedom clipped? Who does it? Do we do it ourselves consciously? Or is it the effect of some external force that makes us do this at an unconscious level?

One of the key reasons I found, across a sample of 5 people (all females, please note), is the pressure of getting you married off to somebody as quickly as possible. The idea is to shrug off the burden as soon as possible. “Are you Queen Cleopatra” is a classic example of how big a burden you have become! I was told that to every mother on this planet her kid looks like the moon! But here, the equation changes. We are living in the 21st century folks! Change those old dumb sayings! Don’t teach them to your kids!

The other reasons being, maybe the person is not good looking. For the record, Geeta is decent on those counts! And we are also taught that ‘Beauty is skin deep’! But where are we now? Take my example, I want my lifepartner to look like Madhuri Dixit. I don’t understand that there’s only one Dr. Nene who is there on this earth and I don’t believe in divorce. I don’t know what, but just because a person is not good-looking doesn’t mean “freedom of thought” is thrown out of the window. The person is still eligible to think or in this case, dream.

Dreaming is fundamental to the nature of a human being. Everybody has the freedom to dream. Don’t kill the freedom. You have nothing to lose if somebody has a dream. Dreams enhance the quality of life. You want to achieve your dreams and you strive harder towards living a better life. Dreams don’t have constraints. Dreams are free. Let them be free.